Clive James’ Lighthearted Ignorance

So Climate Change scepticism is not only a legitimate position to hold, it’s a bag of laughs, a jolly jape, a wheeze and a pile of fun. Well, that’s according to Clive James writing on the BBC Online :-

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8322513.stm

“Friday, 23 October 2009 : In praise of scepticism : Claims over global warming are not accepted by all : A POINT OF VIEW : In a light-hearted essay, Clive James takes a look at Montaigne, golf-ball crisps and our attitude towards climate change sceptics…”

Yes, it’s all erudite : in terms of philosophy it’s even quite appropriate to apply scepticism to various branches of science…I’m thinking social sciences…But not to Climate Change Science.

Empirical science, as you all know by now, is the study of things natural, taking measurements, postulating mechanisms and predicting the results of further observations, against which the theory is evaluated.

From this piece from Mr laugh-a-minute James, I would posit a theory : that Clive writes poorly-informed opinion pieces about Science.

Let’s ask him to try his skills on aerodynamics, shall we ? Or cosmology ? He might have the decency to admit that he doesn’t know much about these, and be un-sceptical in accepting the research results.

But come to Climate Change, and he thinks that, although he readily admits he knows “next to nothing” about the science, that he still has the right, the obligation, to declare that scepticism is a valid position to take on Climate Change.

This is patently ridiculous. He is not in a position to understand why his standing up for scepticism is a display of his ignorance.

He accepts, surely, that heating ice causes melting, that chickens come from eggs, that tobacco causes lung cancer, that Elvis is dead ? These are all verifiable facts that he has not declared scepticism on. Yet he asserts the right to be sceptical about Climate Change Science, about which he knows but a scrap.

If he were to bother to talk with some Climate Change scientists, some real, living and breathing Climate Change specialists, he would hear about the evidence, and how this validates the theory of Global Warming over and over again, in countless areas of study.

This statement of Clive’s is incorrect : “…there are plenty of highly qualified scientists ready to say that the whole idea is a case of too many of their colleagues relying on models provided by the same computers that can’t even predict what will happen to the weather next week.”

This statement of Clive’s is also incorrect : “In fact the number of scientists who voice scepticism has lately been increasing.”

How many more mistakes are there ?

He clearly needs to start talking to actual Climate Change scientists, instead of journalists and sceptics.

Otherwise his ignorance invalidates his jokey philosophy.

Climate Change science evidence from the past week. Try laughing about it, if you can :-




http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5grDMUXPJIfIoEYOtn7aH3pqr6igwD9BGAK601

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID (AP)
WASHINGTON — Global warming is messing with the planet’s thermostat.

That warning came Thursday from Richard Spinrad, head of research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in releasing the annual update of science’s Arctic report card.

Warming temperatures continue in the polar north, changing wind patterns, melting sea ice and glaciers and affecting ocean and land life, the report said.

The Arctic is a sort of natural regulator in terms of the amount of heat stored in the ocean and ice, “especially the loss of sea ice is messing with that thermostat for the whole globe,” Spinrad said at a briefing.

A particular problem is the disappearance of old, thick sea ice that has been present for thousands of years, added James Overland of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Research Laboratory.

“It’s very difficult to get that (ice) back,” he said.

Among the findings of the update:

(*) Air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean reached an unprecedented 7 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) above normal in October-December of 2008.

(*) There is evidence that the higher air temperatures are causing changes in the air circulation in both the Arctic and northern mid-latitudes.

(*) The area covered by sea ice this summer was 25 percent below the average from 1979 to 2000 and was the third since satellite records were begun in 1979.

(*) The melting ice resulted in an unprecedented amount of fresh water in the surface layer of the Arctic Ocean.

(*) The amount of land covered by snow in the winters of 2007-08 and 2008-09 continued the trend toward shorter snow seasons due to earlier spring melt, although there is considerable annual and regional variability.

On the Net : Arctic Report Card :-

http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard




The Press Release from NOAA :-

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20091022_arcticreportcard.html

Compare and contrast with Clive’s writing and try to see, if you can, how scepticism about Global Warming could be applied to the evidence from the Arctic.




http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8322513.stm

Friday, 23 October 2009 15:08 UK
In praise of scepticism

Claims over global warming are not accepted by all

A POINT OF VIEW

In a light-hearted essay, Clive James takes a look at Montaigne, golf-ball crisps and our attitude towards climate change sceptics.

What do I know? Montaigne asked himself, and in answering that question during the course of several volumes of great essays he touched on many subjects. But he never touched on the subject of the golf-ball potato crisp.

As far as I know, this essay I am writing now is the first ever devoted to the subject of Montaigne’s relationship to the golf-ball potato crisp, and my essay starts from my certain knowledge that he never ate one. Or anyway my almost certain knowledge. There’s a difference, which I shall try to bring out.

But more of the golf-ball potato crisp in a moment. Let’s get back to Montaigne and his attitude to knowledge. He was a sceptic. He didn’t want to take things just on trust. As it happened, there were lots of things he did take on trust.

If he liked the sound of an ancient legend, he would refer to it as if it must have been true. He thought astrology had something to it, and his position on the religious quarrels of his own time was that all this Lutheranism could undermine the church and lead to atheism, substance abuse and the contemporary equivalent of reality television.

From our viewpoint, he often doesn’t seem very sceptical at all. But at the time he seemed sceptical enough to excite a whole generation of readers with the idea that some falsehoods might masquerade as facts, and that an enquiring, critical attitude was the one to have.

Shakespeare was only one of his many readers who caught fire at that idea. Shakespeare knew Montaigne’s writings inside out. They helped set the standard for the way our greatest playwright separated what he knew from what he didn’t know. But not even Shakespeare had an opinion about the golf-ball potato crisp, because it had not yet arrived in the world.

…Terminal trouble

If anyone said the infestation of packets of genuine crisps by golf-ball crisps was unstoppable, I would be sceptical, just as I would have been sceptical about the existence of a golf-ball crisp until I was presented with solid evidence.

Indeed, as I have suggested, I would probably have remained sceptical even after I ate one, thinking it to be the kind I like best, with a bit of tough skin in it for extra texture. But once I heard the facts – from my son in law, who has important contacts within the potato crisp industry – I altered my opinion.

What remained constant was my scepticism, which is surely, as a human attitude, more valuable than gullibility. In fact, in everyday life, everyone is sceptical. Even if they believe that the supreme being is watching over them personally, they still want to read the fine print before they sign their house away.

Montaigne wheeled out the odd legend as fact

In Montaigne’s day you could get into terminal trouble for taking scepticism too far, which is probably one of the reasons why not even he pushed it on the subject of religion.

Since then, a sceptical attitude has been less likely to get you burned at the stake, but it’s notable how the issue of man-made global warming has lately been giving rise to a use of language hard to distinguish from heresy-hunting in the fine old style by which the cost of voicing a doubt was to fry in your own fat.

Whether or not you believe that the earth might have been getting warmer lately, if you are sceptical about whether mankind is the cause of it, the scepticism can be enough to get you called a denialist.

It’s a nasty word to be called, denialist, because it calls up the spectacle of a fanatic denying the Holocaust. In my homeland, Australia, there are some prominent intellectuals who are quite ready to say that any sceptic about man-made global warming is doing even worse than denying the Holocaust, because this time the whole of the human race stands to be obliterated.

Really they should know better, because the two events are not remotely comparable. The Holocaust actually happened. The destruction of the earth by man-made global warming hasn’t happened yet, and there are plenty of highly qualified scientists ready to say that the whole idea is a case of too many of their colleagues relying on models provided by the same computers that can’t even predict what will happen to the weather next week.

In fact the number of scientists who voice scepticism has lately been increasing. But there were always some, and that’s the only thing I know about the subject. I know next to nothing about climate science. All I know is that many of the commentators in newspapers who are busy predicting catastrophe don’t know much about it either, because they keep saying that the science is settled and it isn’t.

Speaking as one who lives at sea level, I don’t relish the prospect of my granddaughter spending her life on a raft 30 feet above where she now plays in the garden, but I still can’t see that there is a scientific consensus. There are those for, and those against. Either side might well be right, but I think that if you have a division on that scale, you can’t call it a consensus.

Climate change can be a worrying idea for sea level dwellers

Nobody can meaningfully say that “the science is in”, yet this has been said constantly by many commentators in the press until very lately, and now that there are a few fewer saying it there is a tendency, on the part of those who still say it, to raise their voices even higher, and harden their language against any sceptic, as if they were protecting their faith.

Sceptics, say the believers, don’t care about the future of the human race. But being sceptical has always been one of the best ways of caring about the future of the human race. For example, it was from scepticism that modern medicine emerged, questioning the common belief that diseases were caused by magic, or could be cured by it.

A conjecture can be dressed up as a dead certainty with enough rhetoric and protected against dissent with enough threatening language, but finally it has to meet the only test of science, which is that any theory must fit the facts, and the facts can’t be altered to suit the theory.

The golf-ball crisp might look like a crisp, and in a moment of delusion it might taste like a crisp, and you might even swallow the whole thing, rather proud of the strength it took to chew. But if there is a weird aftertaste, it might be time to ask yourself if you have not put too much value on your own opinion. The other way of saying “What do I know?” is “What do I know?” That shade of different meaning wasn’t there in Montaigne’s original language, but it is in ours.




3 thoughts on “Clive James’ Lighthearted Ignorance”

  1. The so-called ‘climate-change-scientists’ were unemployed or in other jobs before the myth of ‘Global Warming’ was invented. (That occupation has only recently been established.)
    Of course they do not want to admit it’s all a con as there would be no further justification for their continuing employment.
    It’s all just a game, but the sensible British public are not (generally) gullible enough to fall for it.
    A ‘consensus!’ Ha! As if the reality (or otherwise) of Global Warming could be established by a democratic vote!
    It took a truck driver who happened to be on the board of governors at a particular school in England to point out the absurdity of Al Gore’s infamous propaganda film.
    Now it can only be shown with the warning that the points made in it are not proven.
    Jo – You’ve been conned.

  2. “If he were to bother to talk with some Climate Change scientists, some real, living and breathing Climate Change specialists, he would hear about the evidence, and how this validates the theory of Global Warming over and over again, in countless areas of study.”

    Yup.

    Or Phil Jones or Michael Mann could make him some evidence, over and over again. How do you like your data Clive, lightly warmed or over easy?

    I think these Climate Change specialists will ultimately be doing their living and breathing behind bars, for their outrageous and egregious scientific fraud.

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